Missoni scion on plane missing in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Rescue crews used boats and aircraft on Saturday to search for a small plane that disappeared off Venezuela carrying the CEO of Italy's iconic Missoni fashion house and five other people.

But more than a day after the BN-2 Islander aircraft disappeared from radar screens on its short flight from the Venezuelan resort islands of Los Roques to Caracas, no sign of the plane had been found, officials said.

"We have no other news" about the plane carrying 58-year-old Vittorio Missoni, the head of the company; his wife, Maurizia Castiglioni; two of their Italian friends; and two Venezuelan crew members, said Paolo Marchetti, a Missoni SpA official. He spoke briefly to reporters as he left company headquarters in the northern Italian town of Sumirago on Saturday afternoon.

Missoni's younger brother, Luca, who is active in the family-run business, was reportedly traveling to Venezuela on Saturday to monitor search efforts.

"We're holding onto a glimmer of hope," said Oswaldo Scalvenzi , a relative of Elda Scalvenzi, one of the Missoni friends aboard the flight. "Until we can see the wreckage" hope will remain, Scalvenzi told Italian state TV on Saturday night.

Search teams were using a plane and a helicopter, working together with the Venezuelan coast guard, Venezuela's National Civil Aviation Institute said in a statement Saturday.

The twin-engine plane had enough fuel on board for a three-hour flight, said Francisco Paz Fleitas, president of the civil aviation agency. Paz said the plane took off at 11:39 a.m. on Friday and had been expected to arrive at Caracas' Simon Bolivar International Airport 42 minutes later.

The civil aviation agency said the authorities declared an alert after the plane didn't make contact with the control tower at the Caracas airport or with the tower in Los Roques.

"The last position registered in radar data and those supplied by a system on board the aircraft" was about 11 miles (18 kilometers) south of Los Roques, the agency said in the statement.

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that Venezuelan aircraft, boats and helicopters took off at dawn Saturday to resume the search for the missing plane, which had been suspended on Friday night.

Venezuelan Interior Minister Nestor Reverol announced that the plane was missing hours after it took off from Los Roques, a string of islands popular for scuba diving, white beaches and coral reefs, and where the Missonis and their friends were on vacation.

Reverol said on Friday that two navy patrol boats were involved in the search and that a specialized oceanographic ship, the Guaicamacuto, also had been deployed.

Vittorio Missoni is the eldest son of the company's founder, Ottavio, who at 91 still follows the business.

The Corriere della Sera newspaper reported that Ottavio and his wife Rosita were at their home in Italy, along with their daughter Angela, waiting for information about the search. Rosita Missoni designs housewares for the company, and Angela is the company's creative director.

The Missoni fashion house, with its trademark zigzag and other geometric patterns in sweaters, scarves and other knitwear, is one of Italy's most famous fashion brands abroad. It is scheduled to display its latest menswear creations at a fashion show in Milan later this month.

Vittorio Missoni played a key role in marketing the Missoni family creations in Asia, especially in Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea as general director of marketing for Missoni SpA. He also spearheaded a push for the company's products in the United States and France. His efforts to expand the brand abroad led Missoni to be dubbed the company's "ambassador."

Vittorio Missoni has been described as an active sportsman and lover of the outdoors. He and his wife and their friends from northern Italy were scheduled to fly back from Caracas to Italy on Friday after spending the Christmas and New Year's holidays in the islands.

The plane disappeared shortly after takeoff on a flight of about 95 miles (150 kilometers) from the islands to the Caracas airport.

Other small planes have gone down or vanished on flights between the archipelago and the mainland.

On Jan. 4, 2008, a plane on a flight from Caracas to Los Roques disappeared after crashing with 14 people aboard, including eight Italians, a Swiss man and five Venezuelans. The pilot had radioed to controllers that he was having engine trouble before the plane went down as it approached the islands. The body of the Venezuelan co-pilot later washed ashore, but no wreckage was found and most of those on board remain missing.

In 2009, a small plane returning from Los Roques with nine people aboard plunged into the Caribbean Sea, but all survived.

____

Associated Press writer Frances D'Emilio contributed reporting from Rome. Ian James reported in Caracas.

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